Monday, May 30, 2011

Stuff for getting my pie on.

I adore the King Arthur Flour baker's catalog.  When it arrives I greedily snatch it up and escape to my happy place, stocked full with specialty ingredients, tools of the trade and delicious looking baking mixes.  My sister shares my love of  KAF and for my birthday she bought me a gift card for the on-line store.  Believe it or not, it took me months to decide what I wanted to buy because I want everything!  When I started the blog, it just made sense to get something for making pies.  So here are my fun purchases that I will put to good use on the blog.

The box arrives!!

The other side has hearts.  Buy it here.

Ranked the top pie filling thickener by Cook's Illustrated.  Available here.

Adorable mini pie pans. I'll be using these for meat pies!

Friday, May 27, 2011


I love tropical fruit.  There's just something about the intoxicating sweet perfume of fruit like guava, passion fruit and mango that instantly transports me to white sandy beaches and beautiful blue water.  My original inspiration for this dessert was a tart recipe in one of  Bobby Flay's cookbooks.  The first time I tried it I switched things up to make it in a bar form, much like a lemon bar.  For this incarnation I used a graham cracker crust in a tart pan because I really like them and they're just so easy to make.  And in case you're wondering if I'm cheating by making a tart, NO!  A tart is essentially just a flattened out pie so why the heck not!

Guava paste and cheese is a popular combination in some Latin American cuisines, often inside of little turnovers.  This is kind of an inside-out version, all tarted up to be fancy!  I think you'll enjoy the rich, orange-scented cheesecake filling topped with the sweet guava paste.  This would make an excellent dessert to finish off a meal with Latin flavors, or with tea or coffee and your best friends.

Guava Cheese Tart
I made this in an 11" tart pan with a removable bottom.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tb. unsalted butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest of one orange
3 eggs
1/2 of a 21 oz. can of guava paste (you can find this at a Hispanic grocery store)
1/2 cup guava nectar

Combine your crust ingredients and mix well.

Press firmly into a greased 11-inch tart pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and let cool.

Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a mixer bowl and beat until smooth, scraping the bowl often.

Add the vanilla and orange zest, beat to combine and keep scraping the bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate each.  Scrape the bowl between each egg to make sure you get all the lumps.  The batter should be perfectly smooth.  Once all the eggs are mixed in, STOP BEATING!!  Otherwise your filling will have a grainy texture from too much air being incorporated.

Scrape the filling into the cooled crust and bake in a 350 degree oven for
approximately 20 minutes, until the filling is lightly puffed and jiggles slightly.

This is a 21 oz. can of guava paste.  Use half of it.  You can save the other half to eat with cheese.  I'll post another recipe with guava paste so it won't go to waste!

Melt the guava paste with the nectar in a saucepan over medium heat.
Whisk frequently until everything is smooth.

When the tart is done baking, let it rest for about 5 minutes then gently spread the warm glaze over the top, using an off-set spatula.  Be sure your glaze is warm when you do this, it thickens up very quickly as it cools and will tear your filling up if it is not warm enough.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rapture Pie!

Thank you to the wonderful people at Cook's Illustrated for creating this strawberry pie recipe, worthy of enjoying on what could potentially be your last day on Earth.  I had a feeling this pie would knock my socks off, which is why I chose not to bring it to work to share with my fellow team members even before I tasted it.  Sorry gang, I was going the greedy route with this one and I didn't even try to talk myself out of it.

I lost my recent issue of Cook's Illustrated in which I found this recipe.  You can't access recipes on their website unless you pay and join, but I found it posted on another website, so just click here for the complete recipe and steps.  If you don't already subscribe to Cook's Illustrated magazine, I HIGHLY recommend it.  Their test cooks make recipes over and over again until they find the best possible results.  I also enjoy their America's Test Kitchen show on PBS.  I'm  a huge fan.  In fact, I think Cook's Illustrated should hire me to be one of their test cooks.  What better addition to their staff than a cook with a culinary degree and a journalism degree?!  Ya hear that, Cook's Illustrated?

Anywho...this pie is the real deal.  Strawberries are in season right now and they are sweet and delicious!  You really need to make this pie, it's perfect for the end of the world or any other day of the week.

Cook down the frozen strawberries.

Cook until they are reduced to 2 cups.  Don't cheat and just use 2 cups,
you really need to be patient and let them cook down.

The reduced berries mixed with gelatin, lemon juice and sugar.
Cool to room temperature.

Fold in the sliced fresh berries.

Place the filling into your cooked and cooled pie crust.
Ignore my ugly crust.  I don't want to talk about it.

Cool the pie for at least 4 hours and decorate with lovely
swirls of whipped cream.

The most delicious strawberry pie you will ever eat!

Friday, May 13, 2011

I finally give it up for my first post!

I make this peanut butter pie and I've always refused to share the recipe.  I first made the pie back in 2004 when I was a personal chef at an assisted living community.  It was a big hit with the little old folks.  I made the pie frequently when I was the summer chef at a dude ranch, and then again when I was a pastry chef on a train.  There is just something about this pie that causes people to go ape shit, in a good way.  It could be the fact that it contains chocolate and peanut butter, which go together like, well, chocolate and peanut butter.  I don't mean to brag, but the people love this pie.  Many have asked for the recipe and I have always refused to give up the goods because a woman has to have some secrets, ya know!!  So, I figure for the inaugural pie on my blog, it's only fitting that I finally give it up.  This recipe has never even been written down before today, or even measured for that matter!  So consider yourselves lucky, folks.

First, a note about my photos.  They suck.  Spare the comments, I know they suck.  I have no natural light in my kitchen and I don't really know how to use my camera.  And I'm extremely impatient and really wanted to get the pie up on the blog so I didn't take the time to carefully research, practice and plan.  Deal with it.  I'll get better, I promise.

Elisa's Practically Famous Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie
I use a 9.5" glass pie pan

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Tb. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar, divided usage
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Additional sweetened whipped cream, optional

Combine all the crust ingredients and mix well.

Firmly press the crumbs into a pie pan.  I use a measuring cup.

Bake the crust for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

While your crust is cooling, make the filling and chocolate ganache topping.

Add the peanut butter and cream cheese in your mixer bowl.
Mix on medium speed until well combined.

Once combined, add 3 cups powdered sugar and the vanilla.
Turn the mixer on/off slowly so as not to create a cloud of sugar.

When the mixture is done it will look like cookie dough.
Scrape this into another bowl and clean out your mixer bowl so you can
whip the cream to stiff peaks with the remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar.

Fold/smash/stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream to lighten the mixture.
Fold in the remaining cream and try to be semi-gentle with it
so as not to deflate the mixture.  Don't worry if you have some streaks.

To make the topping, add your chocolate and cream to a bowl over a pot
of simmering water.  When the chocolate is melted, whisk well to combine.

Add your filling to the cooled pie crust and smooth the top.

Decorate the top with the chocolate.  I used a squeeze bottle and
you can see where air bubbles caused it to splatter all over.
I call that a "homey touch."  Decorate with whipped cream if you like.

This is a very rich pie and I recommend cutting it into 8 to 12 slices.  Sit back and wait for the swooning!  You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And so begins A Life In Pie

The scene: It's 10:00 a.m. in Denver.  It's my favorite kind of day, gloomy and raining.  I just sit down to watch "Pie Paradise" on the Travel Channel.  I'm texting with my sister about pie.  I've been thinking about starting a blog for a long time and suddenly it hits me.  A blog about pie!!  I text my sister my idea and 30 seconds later I'm signing up for an account on Google's blogspot.

So here I am with my first blog, A Life In Pie.  I will be making a new pie every week and sharing the photos and recipes with you.  There will be both sweet and savory pies, and all of them will be delicious.  The design and various elements of the blog will be a work-in-progress, so I thank you in advance for your patience and constructive comments.

I prefer pie over cake.  That's not to say I would ever turn my nose up at cake, but pie is far superior in my opinion.  Pie is old-fashioned.  Pie evokes images of aprons and rolling pins, little children gazing up at their mothers with flour-dusted hands, mounds of fluffy whipped cream, sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon, red cherries glistening with glaze, and chunks of chicken and vegetables spilling out of a flaky double crust.  My love of pie will fuel my creativity and, I hope, inspire you to bring a little pie into your life.

I found this image on